Pallet Handling Equipment: maximise your company’s productivity
Pallet handling equipment plays a crucial role in a company’s productivity.
Counting on an automated pallet handling line means being able to move pallets more safely, quickly and efficiently between different points of operation in a warehouse, distribution centre or manufacturing plant.
Not only that.
As we will see, using the right handling equipment can streamline operators’ activities, or even reduce them, by directing workers to other, more strategic operations and lowering labour costs.
But let’s go in order, and start by analysing what pallet handling equipment is on the market!
What pallet handling equipment is right for me?
Conveyor belts, handling lines, pallet conveyors – there are many ways in which pallet handling equipment is nicknamed.
As the name suggests, these are industrial handling solutions whose task is to guide pallets of goods along a pre-established circuit, creating a transport system that can be more or less complex depending on the purpose (loading or unloading pallets, positioning on vehicles, transport to different parts of the warehouse, arrangement on shelves, etc.) or need.
Attention: moving a pallet does not only mean moving the pallet from point A to point B in a straight line. Along the way, it may need to be rotated, reversed or even placed on top of other pallets.
This is why there are different types of pallet handling equipment, which are mainly divided into:
- Roller or roller conveyors (with or without motor)
- Chain or chain conveyors
- Rail or shuttle conveyors
- Package handling solutions also include belt conveyors and strap conveyors; however, they are less used for pallet handling.
In addition to these solutions, we also find rotary stations, switchers or diverters, stackers and pallet magazines, which are considered auxiliary equipment of the pallet transport line.
Let us try to better understand what these machines are and how they can be useful for maximising productivity in a company.
Idle roller conveyors
Idle roller conveyors are pallet conveyors that operate by the push or action of gravity. They are not equipped with motors, but only with a system of rollers in succession, which are able to slide the pallets thanks to their inclination or, alternatively, through an initial push.
The almost total absence of friction makes them suitable only for light loads of small to medium size.
Motorised roller conveyors
Unlike idle roller conveyors, motorised roller conveyors are automatic pallet handling equipment. Also known as roller conveyors, they consist of a system of drive rollers with a motor and drive that initiate movement.
Motorised roller conveyors can be flat-belt driven or driven by chain or chain loops. Let’s take a look at the main differences and how they are used.
- Flat-belt motorised roller conveyors: these consist of a belt running through two different types of rollers (pressure and carrying rollers). The pressure rollers keep the belt in contact with the load-bearing rollers, imparting movement to them: in this way, the load-bearing rollers support and move the pallet smoothly. This pallet handling equipment is suitable for a wide variety of packages, as long as they do not exceed 30 kg. It works both flat and with a slight incline;
- Motorised roller conveyors with tangential chain: these are roller conveyors moved by a straight chain that connects the crowns at the base of each roller. Due to its low friction, it is a widely used solution for handling palletised loads over long distances;
- Motorised roller conveyors with chain rings: in this case, movement is transmitted by a chain that links each roller to the next through a ‘ring’ system. It is mainly used for handling heavy loads over short distances or in systems where frequent stops and starts are required.
The shuttle is a pallet handling unit on rails: in fact, it is a motorised trolley that moves along a track system.
It can be used as a substitute for other pallet handling and transport systems, especially when it is necessary to move loads over long distances or between several departments and warehouses. In fact, the movement of the shuttle on the rails allows for greater stability of the load, as well as achieving a higher speed than other solutions.
Among pallet handling equipment, the shuttle is the most suitable for conveying several palletisation lines and managing multiple loading and unloading locations.
Roller/chain deflector exchanger
The roller/chain switch is a pallet handling unit that allows a palletised load to be transferred from a roller handling line to a chain line, or vice versa. This is provided that the lines are arranged orthogonally to each other.
The exchanger is a system consisting of a roller conveyor and a chain conveyor, respectively placed at right angles to each other. Once a pallet arrives above the station, the device deflects it towards the new line by changing its front end, usually with a 90° change in the axis of movement.
The turntable station allows the direction of the pallet to be changed when passing between several roller or chain conveyors. The station can therefore consist of either a roller conveyor or a chain conveyor.
As the name suggests, the rotating station is able to rotate on itself. In doing so, it allows the palletised load to change direction by 90°. Compared to the diverter, however, it does not change the pallet’s advancing front.
In addition to rotation, the station also allows a forward movement of the load.
It is mainly used in the handling of heavy loads (up to 1500 kg) and is mainly installed in-line in the pre-storage and post-packaging phases.
The pallet stacker is a device capable of placing two pallets on top of each other thanks to its retractable forks.
By adjusting the width of the forks, even unwrapped pallets can be stacked. This is why, as well as being able to be positioned at the side of the handling line, it lends itself to being inserted both before and after pallet wrapping systems, responding to different line requirements.
The pallet dispenser is a device with a dual purpose.
Firstly, it functions as a store for empty pallets, which can be stored stacked on top of each other (in Pieri solutions up to a maximum of 12 pallets) while waiting to be used again.
Secondly, the pallet store makes it possible to supply the production line with one or more pallets when needed.
The pallet dispenser is able to do this thanks to its integrated conveyor belt (roller or chain) and a fork, which is used to extract a single pallet from the stack of empty pallets and then feed it to the line.
The advantages of using pallet handling equipment
As we have just seen, pallet handling equipment makes it possible to organise the flow of goods by offering a great versatility of solution.
There are machines for any type of requirement, to be set up according to the destination of the pallets (loading, unloading, storage, shipping) or the size of the warehouse, in order to improve the efficiency and productivity of the company. Yes, but how?
The advantages of organising an automatic pallet handling line are considerable from many points of view.
The first certainly concerns the optimisation of goods movement operations.
All pallet handling equipment, whether roller or chain conveyors or the fastest shuttles, allow goods and pallets to be moved between areas that are also very distant from each other, or even to connect the warehouse to the incoming, picking and parcel dispatch areas. All this quickly and, above all, automatically.
This optimised management leads to a reduction in goods handling times, with direct benefits on warehouse efficiency, but not only.
Since pallet handling equipment is automated equipment, less human resources are required to do the job. This leads to significant savings in labour costs, as the need for labourers to handle the goods is reduced.
The company can thus optimise the allocation of resources, investing in specialised profiles and employees to be allocated to other more strategic and productive activities.
Finally, let us not forget the security aspect.
Companies involved in logistics and goods handling must adopt specific procedures to guarantee the safe transport of goods, where safety means both the ability to preserve the transported product from damage and to guarantee the safety of operators.
Pallet handling equipment guarantees all this: being automatic systems, they reduce the possibility of human error, helping to improve the level of safety in the warehouse.
All the more reason to start setting up an automatic pallet and goods handling line now!